March 10, 2009

A Changing Reality

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The Obama administration, by its own admission, is redefining the role of the federal government. This is evidenced by the President’s budget for the fiscal year 2010, which is not only a document of numbers and figures, but one of goals, priorities and yes, ideology. This is not to say that all aspects of the President’s budget are misguided, but Americans need to be made aware of the changing reality in which we are living.

The first point to be made is that with the new President have come questions and concerns about the fate of the American economy. It is difficult to say with conviction that the new administration has caused the decline in markets. There is no telling whether or not the market would experience the same decline since January as it has, if Bush were in office. Nonetheless, there are uncertainties about the changing role of government that need to be addressed and acknowledged by the administration. President Obama’s budget claims that, “The past eight years have discredited once and

for all the philosophy of trickle-down economics.” This represents a fundamental shift in approach to government. The administration is not simply adjusting policy, but implementing a tectonic shift that will either make or break this nation.

President Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget is aimed at curing the nation’s ills by utilizing the power of government. The administration’s philosophy is predicated on the notion that there are numerous market failures and only the government can meet society’s demands. Healthcare reform, education reform, building up infrastructure and limiting carbon emissions are some of the problems that the Obama administration has rightly decided to address. The government should propel reform forward where the private market will not. However, President Obama wishes to take it a step further and make the government the vehicle for reform. Consider the President’s request to place $634 billion in a “health fund,” as a down payment on healthcare reform. Nobody can say with certainty what this money will be allocated for, as there are no concrete proposals on the table. Yet, most seem to accept billions of dollars being allocated for nothing.

Some may disregard these concerns as a high-level discussion of approach to governance, and this is part of the problem. The administration has not effectively communicated how its philosophy translates into policy, policy that has a direct impact on nearly everything, from medicine to taxes to national security. There needs to be an honest and open discourse about the future. As cliché as it may seem, this is a watershed time in the nation’s history. Both policymakers and the American people as a whole should strive for maximum effectiveness and should not be guided by ideology.